Aug 23 2009
|Halo: Combat Evolved||Racing Evoluzione||Matrix: Path of Neo||Kung Fu Chaos||Black||Burnout Series||Full Spectrum Warrior|
The console market in 2000 was largely owned by Sony’s Playstation 2. Building on the tremendous success of the original Playstation, Sony had already shown Sega the door and seemed to be doing the same to Nintendo. Was there room for another format? Microsoft thought so…
Using PC architecture and chip manufacturers (Nvidia and Intel), Microsoft created a powerful, developer-friendly console from proven technology. The decision to incorporate a hard-drive, rather than relying on after-market memory-cards was also indicative of its PC origins.
Launched in 2001, Microsoft’s foray into the console race was certainly determined. Western developer support was widespread apart from some initial reluctance on the part of Electronic Arts and some Asian developers climbed on board as the worldwide launches gathered momentum.
The US launch of the X-Box took place in Nov, 2001 with a Japanese and PAL territory (Europe / Australia) following in February and March 2002. The console’s reception in the US and Europe was extremely positive, primarily due to the killer-app, Halo: Combat Evolved but the Japanese market largely ignored the gigantic black box.
Despite its success in the West, the X-Box was still ridiculed for its size, noise and ugliness, even the controllers attracted some negative press. The initial batch also had a fairly high failure rate, something that console gamers were unused to. Both these flaws were addressed by Microsoft in the coming months, particularly the controller, by releasing worldwide the smaller, previously Japanese-only, Controller S.
Global hardware sales were promising in the first two years but Sony continued to sell Playstation 2s at a colossal rate and Nintendo’s new console, the Gamecube, was released in mid-2002 with some very familiar franchises (Mario, Zelda, etc). However, these franchises were insufficient to propel the Gamecube into mass-market competition, and Microsoft and Sony continued to release games appealing to a wider-demographic. In 2002, the X-Box took 2nd place behind Sony.
In late 2002, Microsoft launched its X-Box Live system, with some cynics seeing it as an attempt to ‘control’ the internet because PC games had traditionally used the broader internet to play multi-player games. X-Box Live gradually grew in popularity over the next few years, assisted greatly by Bungie’s integration with its best-selling sequel, Halo 2.
With very similarly capable hardware, Microsoft and Sony fought the console war largely by securing exclusive IPs. Sony captured Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid, while Microsoft had the Halo franchise and games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Microsoft’s X-Box Live feature also proved influential as consumer’s broadband adoption grew.
The X-Box’s hard drive later proved to be a boon for the ‘modding’ community, allowing pirated games to be easily run. It also facilitated the use of the X-Box as a media-centre, connecting to users’ home PC networks to play the increasingly popular bittorrent movies and TV shows.In the end, despite significant efforts by Microsoft, it could not match the phenomenal success of the Playstation 2 – worldwide sales of the X-Box were 24 million, compared to 138 million PS2s (2009). Even second place was hard-won, Nintendo’s first-party titles were still very popular.
However, X-Box Live became the online standard by which all others were judged and its library of first-person shooters and tactical RPGs attracted many hardcore gamers (especially ex-PC users). Microsoft’s next console capitalised on the online success, migrating user accounts from X-Box to X-Box 360 seamlessly.